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September 12, 2012

Social Networking Sites "Like" the 2012 Election

Veronica Jauriqui

Veronica Jauriqui is Special Projects Manager at the Norman Lear Center.

obamatwitter125.jpgThat ranty Facebook friend? You know, the one whose incessant political tirades you find just a tad offensive? Maybe you just think he's unpleasant. Or you've considered the ultimate death knell of the "unfriend" button.

It turns out your friend might have been on to something.

In a study released last week by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, about 1 in 6 people said they had "changed their views about a political issue" after reading about it on a social networking site (SNS). Though even Pew acknowledges this as a "modest" influence at best, you can't deny the necessity of a social media component to any political action campaign.

It's been four years since then-candidate Barack Obama and his crack team of social media strategists leveraged the power of SNS to connect with young and previously ignored constituencies, raising millions of dollars and winning the election in the process.

At the time, I was a graduate student at USC's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and had the chance to study the presidential election and the unprecedented role social media was beginning to play in the campaign. My study was small and qualitative, representing a handful of young potential voters and how they connected to candidates and issues online and in social networks. It was a chicken-vs-egg study. Can you build engagement online? Or do the already engaged flock to SNS to spread their political messages? The results showed that those who were already politically active and motivated used social networks as another means of spreading their message. Engagement offline begets engagement online, and not vice versa.

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September 25, 2012

Reopening The Glass Closet

Adam Amel Rogers
Adam Amel Rogers is a Project Specialist at the Norman Lear Center.

Are famous gay people better off than they were five years ago?

Out-Magazine125.jpgIn September 2007, the Lear Center convened a lively roundtable of experts to discuss the Hollywood climate for gay and lesbian entertainers. The discussion analyzed the so-called "glass closet" - a term describing someone who is widely known to be gay without actually being out publicly. Five years later, some industries have taken giant leaps toward equality, and some have only taken baby steps.

HOLLYWOOD: A few cracks in the glass closet
Headlines are quick to congratulate Hollywood on both the increasing numbers of openly gay actors and the matter-of-fact manner in which actors are now choosing to proclaim their sexual identity. While progress has definitely been made, there is still far to go. As public relations guru Howard Bragman, who moderated the 2007 glass closet event, is quick to point out, "There is no out movie star (in fact, some will sue you for making the insinuation)." There is also still lingering damage from a controversial Newsweek article in 2010 that proclaimed openly gay actors are not believable in straight roles. While this article faced a huge backlash, it still undoubtedly pushed some actors further into the glass closet. Another problem is that many of the successful openly gay actors are still white males. Celebrities like Queen Latifah, who is currently the most high profile member of the glass closet, have not yet felt comfortable coming out publicly.

There is one recent shining example of a celebrity of color coming out to fanfare, though. In 2007, Ricky Martin was still deep in the glass closet, but in 2010 he nervously came out on his website, and his dormant career suddenly enjoyed a renaissance. He is currently starring in Evita on Broadway, and when I saw the show this summer, hundreds of people gathered outside the theater to catch a fleeting glimpse of him. As we waited over an hour, I looked around the eclectic group of tourists, and I realized how special it was that all these people were there to celebrate an openly gay celebrity. Part of his hesitation in coming out was fear of losing his career, when in reality it's what reinvigorated his career. It is obvious that he is much happier since coming out, which is a point that pioneering gay actor Wilson Cruz made in the 2007 discussion when he said, "I'm probably happier now in my work, than if I'd stayed in the closet."

JOURNALISM: Equality adjacent
The 2007 glass closet panel focused on OUT Magazine's decision to put Anderson Cooper and Jodie Foster on the cover of its glass closet issue. Foster sort of came out a few months later by thanking her long-term partner in an award acceptance speech, but Anderson Cooper still largely remained behind glass. OUT's Shana Naomi Krochmal (now a producer for Current TV) said that he was able to be successful

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